PORTLAND, Ore. (June 22, 2001) - Picking up where he left off three weeks ago at The Milwaukee Mile, Townsend Bell (DirecPC Lola) set yet another Dayton Indy Lights Championship track record Friday in first round qualifying for Sunday's Spirit ...
PORTLAND, Ore. (June 22, 2001) - Picking up where he left off three weeks ago at The Milwaukee Mile, Townsend Bell (DirecPC Lola) set yet another Dayton Indy Lights Championship track record Friday in first round qualifying for Sunday's Spirit Mountain Casino Challenge at Portland International Raceway.
Bell broke the track qualifying record he set here last year when he drove one lap around the 1.969-mile road course at an average speed of 108.795 mph (65.154 seconds). Last year's lap clocked in at 108.593 mph (65.275 seconds) which was good enough for his first career Dayton Indy Lights pole. He is the favorite to win the pole again in Saturday's final qualifying and believes he has the race car to do it.
"Just like at Milwaukee, I have to thank my engineer, Gerald Tyler, and the entire Dorricott crew for helping put together a great set-up," Bell said. "The car was really hooked up all around the track. We put 'sticker' tires on and the times came easy. We ran several quick laps that brought us the pole and a new track record. I'm pretty happy going into final qualifying. I think we could go a tick quicker then it's a matter of figuring how to stay fast throughout the race."
Rookie Dan Wheldon (Gemstar Communications/PacWest Lights Lola) was second fastest Friday but was more than a half second off of Bell's leading pace. Wheldon, celebrating his 22nd birthday today, lapped at an average speed of 107.610 mph (65.871 seconds).
"The car was good and overall it was a good session for us," Wheldon said. "I made a little mistake on my first set of tires - I went off on the grass and then it took awhile for the safety crew to clean up. Hopefully we'll do better tomorrow, but being in the front row is pretty good. We'll work on the set-up some more tonight and I'm confident we can close the gap going into second round of qualifying tomorrow."
Bell's teammate Damien Faulkner (Dorricott Racing Lola) was third fastest at an average speed of 107.345 mph (66.034 seconds). He was second fastest behind Bell in this morning's opening practice session.
"It's nice to be back on a road course because that's what I'm used too from racing in Europe," said Faulkner, who won in his oval track racing debut at Texas in April. "We've been quick all day but we have something to aim for since we weren't fastest in the first practice. We made a few changes and tried a different set of rear shock absorbers hoping they would give us what we need for faster laps. Unfortunately, we may have misread our telemetry and that hurt us in qualifying. It's good to be third in provisional qualifying but there are still two spots ahead I feel I should be better able to catch. That's our aim so we may go back to the set-up we had in the first practice with a few minor adjustments. It seems logical to go in that direction"
Dorricott Racing's third driver Jon Fogarty (Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards Lola) never made it on to the track Friday. He has withdrawn from the weekend due to a suspected herniated disc in his cervical vertebrae.
Rudy Junco (Mexpro/StarlightDiamonds.com/PrecioBase.com Lola) and Luis Diaz (Telmex Lola) rounded out the top five. If they hold those positions through Saturday's final qualifying session, each driver will earn a career-best grid position.
Friday's qualifying ended under red flag conditions when Diaz's teammate Rolando Quintanilla (Telmex Lola) made contact in Turn 11. He was uninjured and is expected to be able complete the weekend in his repaired race car.
"The car felt pretty good," Quintanilla said. "I got caught behind a slower car when I tried to pass him he moved over on me. If I hadn't moved over he would have taken off my front wing. As for my last lap, I came into the corner a little hot, and spun the car."
Sunday's race will be televised in a one-hour show on ESPN2 in same-day coverage at 10:30 p.m. ET (7:30 p.m. PT).